In what feels more like a bait-and-switch marketing tactic than a legitimate business decision, Tesla Motors has announced that it will not build the most affordable, smallest battery pack version of the Model S electric sedan.
Why? Because of a "lack of demand". According to Tesla, only four percent of buyers placing deposits reserved the 40-kWh version of the Model S.
The 40-kWh model remains on Tesla's retail site for the moment, at a promised price of $52,400 after $7,500 in Federal tax credits.
Tesla had claimed a range of 160 miles for the most affordable Model S, along with a 0-60 mph time of 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 110 mph.
A 235-horsepower motor generating 310 pound-feet of torque was specified, with production to begin in "Spring 2013."
According to Tesla, "Customers are voting with their wallet that they want a car that gives them the freedom to travel long distances when needed."
Buyers that reserved a slot for the 40 kWh model won't be left in the cold, however.
Instead, they'll get a crippled version of the $62,400 (after credit) 60 kWh car. It'll have the same battery pack as the mid-range Model S, but software will limit it to use of 40 kWh of the pack's energy.
This limited version of the electric sedan will also offer the 60-kWh car's more powerful motor and attendant quicker acceleration (60 mph in 5.9 seconds) and higher top speed (120 mph).
The news of the cancellation of the 40-kWh Model S comes alongside an announcement of higher-than-expected sales of the Model S range and an announcement of Tesla Motors' profitability during Q1 2013.